Irwin Cotler doesn't seem to be listening
Justice minister maintains Canada's existing gun laws are 'the toughest in the world.'
By Linda Williamson
September 25, 2005
Politicians aren't good at much besides talking. I don't expect them to actually catch criminals. So when Canada's largest city is in the grips of a crime crisis, I don't have a problem with politicians coming here to talk about it; that's their job.
But when they refuse to listen, they deserve to a good talking-to.
This year in Toronto, as 41 people (as of Friday; such is this wave of gun violence that you can never be sure the numbers won't go up over a weekend) have been massacred by guns, federal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler has been at the centre of at least three meetings about the problem, by my count.
The results are as follows:
At the Liberal caucus meeting in Regina in August, he told worried MPs from the Toronto area that Canada's gun laws are among the toughest in the world and harsher sentences won't work.
In Toronto three weeks ago to meet with Mayor David Miller and others prior to a planned community forum on gun violence, he said Canada's gun laws are among the toughest in the world and harsher sentences won't work.
Last week, on the day of the community forum, he told the assembled throng, as well as reporters, that Canada's gun laws are among the toughest in the world and harsher sentences won't work.
Can you see the problem here?
This insultingly obtuse response to a community where young, mostly black, men are being killed with bloody regularity and residents of all stripes are being terrorized, is simply unforgivable.
Yet incredibly, Cotler's numbing refrain seems to be having an effect: The Toronto MPs have been cowed by the superior legal expertise of their learned colleague, and we don't hear a peep from them about actually getting these criminals off the street. Toronto's mayor and councillors have shifted their focus to begging for money for "social programs." And even the media are swallowing the Liberal Kool-Aid: Of the three major Toronto papers that did stories on the meeting Thursday, only the Sun raised the issue of sentencing or enforcement — the Star and Globe stuck only to the "root causes/social program" script.
This, despite the poignant cry from gunfire victim Louise Russo, who personifies the truth that this gang-gun crisis is not just isolated to certain gang-ridden neighbourhoods that elitist crime theorists can ignore or chalk up to poverty (where is the anger over "income profiling"?).
"If you carry an illegal gun, right away there should be a minimum sentence applied," Russo — one of several innocent bystanders in this city who've been irreparably injured by shootings — was quoted as saying by the Sun's Brodie Fenlon. "There should be no plea bargaining." Even Ontario's Liberal attorney general, the pit-bull-banning Michael Bryant, agreed and called on Cotler to see reason.
But not only would the justice minister not insist that our supposedly tough gun laws actually be enforced and upheld in court — he didn't even pledge a penny of the feds' fat surplus for the wonderful social programs he extols so much.
What could be emptier? What could be more useless?
Just hours after the meeting, police patrolling one of the basketball courts Cotler's acolytes see as so important to ending crime were shot at (again) in Jane-Finch.
Too bad the minister, who told reporters he had lived and worked in that struggling neighbourhood and talked to gang members (if anyone can confirm this, let me know), was long gone.
I'd have loved to hear him tell those cops how getting tougher on crime isn't the answer.
© Canoe Inc. 2005